No. 5 Penn State has one more tune-up before beginning its defense of the Big Ten title when it hosts Georgia State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions followed up a 52-0 rout of Akron in their opener with a 33-14 triumph over rival Pittsburgh, although their prolific offense could stand to improve in some areas before the schedule intensifies.
The Panthers possessed the ball nearly twice as long as Penn State and they outgained James Franklin’s squad 342-312. “After the game, I said, ‘We played a complete game,’ and what I mean by that is, when you watch a tape, there’s some areas obviously we could have played better in,” Franklin told reporters this week. “But I do feel like that all three phases played good enough to win. It’s probably a better way to describe a ‘complete game.’” Trace McSorley recorded the fewest passing yards (164) in his last eight games but he managed three touchdown passes and needs three more to tie Kerry Collins (39) for seventh on the school’s all-time list. The Panthers have not played since a season-opening 17-10 home loss to Tennessee State of the FCS.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Penn State -38.5
ABOUT GEORGIA STATE (0-1): The Panthers had four turnovers and rushed for only 49 yards in their loss while playing their debut at Georgia State Stadium, the facility formerly known as Turner Field and home to the Atlanta Braves. Senior Conner Manning completed 14-of-17 passes and seven different players had at least one catch, led by Taz Bateman (six catches, 74 yards and a TD). Georgia State leans on a defense led by cornerback Chandon Sullivan - a two-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection - and defensive end Mackendy Cheridor, who ranks second in program history in career sacks (7.5) and is tied for first in tackles for loss (22).
ABOUT PENN STATE (2-0): Star running back Saquon Barkley, who had 88 rushing yards and a TD in the win over Pitt, has been tagged as the primary kick returner for the Nittany Lions, despite the protests of many who want to limit injury risk for the dynamic junior. “One of the things that I don’t really understand is everybody talks about how important special teams are, and it’s just as important as offense and defense until you try to use your starters on special teams. I don’t really get it,” Franklin said of the criticism. “...I know we have a kickoff returner that … I know makes people nervous to kick it to.” Tight end Mike Gesicki has two TDs in each of the first two games and needs only one more to match the team’s record for a single season at the position.
1. This will be the first meeting between the teams. Georgia State is 0-8 against Power Five teams but played Wisconsin tough last year before falling 23-17.
2. Nittany Lions WR DaeSean Hamilton leads the team with 119 receiving yards and is tied for third on the program’s career receptions list with 167.
3. Penn State begins Big Ten play at Iowa on Sept. 23.
PREDICTION: Penn State 48, Georgia State 7